Thoughts For the End of the Year

This was a year of big leaps and painful stumbles, of problem solving and getting it wrong. Then righting myself and finding balance. For a bit. For me, that’s the point of living a creative life. Not bliss, not smooth sailing, but a mix of everything.


Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.

It gives real perspective on both the high and low points—deep enjoyment of the highs allows me to tolerate the lows. And for me, that’s the point. The lows aren’t defeats if I can keep the highs in mind. It’s the distance traveled between them that make the highs and lows work, and they work together. Not one at a time. And it’s the effort for both that needs to be honored. No one deliberately screws up. We were on the way to something else when we realize we were heading in the wrong direction. Often at full tilt.

Because I find hope a false emotion (often a great mask for the inner critic), knowing that success and failure come in waves makes both of them bearable.

Hope allows me to think that mistakes are accidents and success is “who I really am.” Hope pushes me to think that all things will end well. But they don’t. Some things end badly. I am neither my great success nor am I my embarrassing failure. The red-ink ancient Chinese chop up there says, “Do not become complacent with victory; do not become frustrated with defeat.” Good point. I am a spirit in motion, traveling toward and away from something at the same time.

This year brought me the gift of saying goodbye well, when my father-in-law died. And the gift of great, unbridled pride and unconditional love, given me by my son. And an acceptance of letting go of the long struggle over a quilt my mother never finished.

My biggest disappointment (in myself) came when a treasured client quit in anger, and stalked away.  Much of coaching success depends on self-management, the realization that I am a space of energy only. I do not “make” clients succeed. I do not “cause” their failure. But when a client is careening toward a decision fueled by anger, it is hard not to try to wrest the wheel of decision-making out of those clenched hands, and try to fix, correct the path. It’s overpowering to want to avert disaster.

But I took a vow in coaching class, a vow not to fix, not to give advice. Because fixing and giving advice doesn’t allow for the client to see that learning-important mistake and live it. Instead, giving advice allows for blame and anger toward the coach instead of measured consideration of personal decisions.  The best coaches I know are masters of “no advice”.

In the following weeks, I knew I could give the client an easy out. Go back and pretend the careening skid hadn’t happened. Fix my image of myself at the same time. Make myself kinder, at least in the rear-view mirror. But life doesn’t work that way. This was a client decision. My work was to accept that decision.

Some things can’t be mended, fixed, healed or backed up. Consequences are what we choose when we choose an action and make the decision.  I had to accept that every illusion I had of wanting to change the outcome was not my work to do. The client was behaving true to personal human nature, turning away from the change that was suddenly no longer worth fighting for. Painful as it was, I had to step aside and let the future happen, whatever it will be.

And that’s a good lesson to pick out of the smouldering disappointment. You can explain, but you cannot understand for others. You can learn to accept what is. You can give up hope that somehow, magically, history will forget and back up and we can live a day over again, wiser now. Every parent in Newtown, Connecticut would pay dearly for that. But it cannot be. I cannot decide not how to change the world, but only how to change myself.  We talk about forgiveness a lot, insist on its power, until, of course, it is up to us to forgive. Then it seems impossible.

This has been a year rich in lessons–on change, accepting, forgiveness, intention, focus, letting go, growth. All of those are words that you, my blog readers, have taken as your words for 2013. All are good. You are the brightest, funniest, wisest people I have never met, and I hope to get to know you all much better in 2013.

Words are powerful. Choose the ones you want to live by well.

-Quinn McDonald wishes a few deep hours of reflection for everyone this year, and the deep joy of acceptance.

26 thoughts on “Thoughts For the End of the Year

  1. Thank you for your words. Sometimes you write and it feels like you’re talking directly to me because you hit the nail on the head on something that I’m experiencing. Sometimes you just make me think more deeply. I choose the word – flow. I want to feel more flexible with the highs and lows of life and people. I feel ready to look at my angers and resentments in a new way and release them. Flow keeps popping up in texts I’m reading and it feels right and strong.

  2. But when you hope for a secret handshake and get one with chocolate you can´t help but smile. 😀
    My word of the year is energy so I was very interested in Pete´s take and yours on perception/change of reality. 🙂

  3. In conversations with two other strong women today, the word that came up was “boundaries” — as in setting them, saying “this feels right to me and therefore I choose this.”

  4. You’re amazing, Quinn. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to read your insights. Thank you for sharing so much, in such an honest and thoughtful way.

  5. Every syllable resonated with me. Perfect harmony with your words. Thank you so very much. Happiest of New Years every day of 2013 to you and yours. Thanks for being you. : )

  6. Very intense words today, from everybody. Pete, you never bore me! I always appreciate your insights! :chuckles:
    Each of us from our own perspectives want to improve our lives by improving ourselves. I think that’s the key in choosing our words. Finding a word that will help us create the change in our lives we, as individuals, see is “needed”.
    I’m wishing each of you finds enlightenment in the word you have chosen, that you create the changes, find the opportunities and continue to search for your personal meaning.
    My word will be “need”.

  7. Quinn, Wow, just wow. You have given my end of the year thoughts of my new, focused word for 2013 a place to sit today with the journal; the thinking through of this decision is again for the next year is very important to me. I printed your writing to study, to take in, to feel deeply as I dig deeply for that word. My 2012 word of kindness has given me the understanding of taking time, kindly, with myself as I reflect and choose.
    Thank you for a most enlightening year of words, pictures, considerations, choice making routes. Your coaching practice clearly manifests in your blog and for that gift from you I give thanks.
    May 2013 continue to open doors and windows and the huge landscape of the universe for you and yours.

  8. I find happiness in some things and events, and sadness in others, just like, I imagine, everyone. I wonder about that.

    When you wrote: “Hope pushes me to think that all things will end well. But they don’t. Some things end badly.” It occurred to me that “a thing” and “an end” (or a beginning) are distinctions I make, and when I look closer, one moment is part of all other moments and there is no edge separating one thing from all other things.

    So at some level I’m choosing this. I look at the world and what I’m regarding is really there — but applying distinctions like “this thing is not that thing”, or “this is ending, that is beginning” — those are from me; I’m laying a grid of my own making over the seamless world I see. The grid makes it all easier for me to understand. But it doesn’t really change the world itself. I could make a different grid. In fact, I do; I can look at yesterday’s snow and see how pretty it looks, or the photo opportunities it presents, or how much fun Zack the dog is going to have in it (he loves snow), or the work it’s going to take to clear the driveway. But it’s always the same snow. And at the bottom of it all, even frozen snow is made, like everything, out of energy. Energy that, famously, can’t be created or destroyed. Even when energy is used, it’s not used up.

    I’m regarding a universe made of energy, and I can change how I regard it but I can’t use it up. When I find happiness in some of the ways I regard the world — the ways I *choose to* regard it — I wonder if happiness, like energy, is also there all the time, and I’m just making it easier to understand.

    • You would make an excellent Zen koan, all on your own. Yes, you are right, we see the world the way WE are, not the way it is. The Talmud knew that many years ago already. It’s all about how we want to focus on the energy. I do think that what we say to other people changes that energy. And for me, right now, I can’t go back to yesterday and undo things. If, for example, I yell at someone, even if I say I’m sorry, they have the memory of being yelled at. Even though the sound is gone, the effects are there.

      • Effects can be surprising things. I fired somebody one time for a good reason, but it was the first time I’d ever done that and it bothered me a lot for quite a long time. I ran into the person a couple years later and still felt so bad I apologized. Got back a puzzled look and found out they’d been hoping for almost as long to run into me — to thank me.

  9. Thank you for your writings and sharing your thoughts and feelings. I read every post and always get something from it.
    Last year my word was Prosperous, this year it was Successful and I don’t feel I have been either. I have decided to change my focus on money and acquiring more (we lost it all in 2010 through a wrong business decision and a thief of a business partner). I am going to focus on what I really want to be.

    My word for 2013 is HAPPY

    • Ah, that focus on money can make so much of a difference (one way or another) in our lives. Losing it all is very tough–hard, thorny. You have chosen a word that helps you see the world in a new way.

  10. “Some things can’t be mended, fixed, healed or backed up”.

    Yes, that’s a hard lesson, and one, it seems, that we have to learn over and over again.

    You might enjoy “Something like acceptance”, which I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It took a long time, a long, long time, for me to reach “something like acceptance”

    Maybe, after all, this is the human struggle, one we always come to slowly, imperfectly, stumbling on the steps. And hope and despair can live side by side, hand in hand, as we stumble our way towards something approximating truth.

    • This IS the human struggle—choosing what to struggle against, choosing that to accept, choosing how each of those decisions change our perceptions and reactions. Thanks for another of your tender, tough poems.

  11. I have been tossing and turning all night in turmoil,crazy horrid dreams,wake up,stress,sweat,doze…..another morning of opening my eyes and feeling of dread every morning,of facing another day,of descisions big and small,of wondering what the hell happeneded to my life and my wonderful family,I didn’t know so many tears could come out of one person. But you hit every nail on the head. …perfectly. I did live in hope,it turned out to be false,I do need to be responsible for my thoughts and actions. I have had all confidence and life beaten and worn out of me…..but today NO MORE…
    I will get out of this bed and show the world what I am made of…or just myself…..I can do it. I have big big descions to make and am being questioned at every turn….but I will take charge of them now,if they are the right ones great we move forward,if not at least I am unsticking from this path of treacle I find myself in. Unlike your client,I have not been rash in coming to my conclusions. But your words resonated so highly you will never know what they mean to me. Time for action. My word will not be hope. I am over that. I will have it by midnite tonite!
    Quinn,.thankyou for writing,for taking the time,for sharing….many times this year your posts have got me through the day…roll on 2013…let’s rock. It was like an angel landed on me…x

    • We create our own reality in so many ways. Often just by the attitude we decide to face our hardships with. It sounds like you have had a change of how you want to tackle 2013. I don’t know what happened to you, but it sounds serious and hard. And I am VERY happy that you are diving in and creating a different path from the one you were on before. You know I’m cheering you on!

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